ESPN will introduce a new production enhancement for NASCAR coverage during its telecast of the Allstate 400 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Sunday that displays the aerodynamic benefit of "drafting" behind another race car.
The new graphic effect, called "Draft Track," was developed in collaboration with Sportvision, a longtime supplier of production effects and enhancements to ESPN and other major sports programmers. The concept of Draft Track is to allow viewers to "see the air" with a graphic effect that depicts the airflow created by a NASCAR race car.
The new effect will initially be used on replays. Draft Track will let viewers see the air flowing over and behind race cars as they circle the track, whether there is one car or a multi-car pack, and the airflow visualization will change in real time as the cars jockey for position.
"We continue to be fascinated with showing viewers things that you cannot see – the line of scrimmage in football, the strike zone in baseball, and the airflow in motorsports, especially relevant to NASCAR, known as drafting," said Jed Drake, ESPN senior vice president and executive producer, in a statement. "Draft Track brings to life for the viewer an element of NASCAR racing that has been a much-discussed but unseen part of the sport for decades."
The Draft Track system, which pulls positioning data from SportVision’s patented RACEf/x car tracking system, is based on computational fluid dynamics information and wind tunnel data that SportVision used to build a comprehensive model of the airflow as it affects cars in relation to each other. The system and the Draft Track computers calculate and determine the profile of the airflow many times per second on cars traveling at over 200 mph. Once the calculations are done, the airflow effect is the linked to the highlighted cars using SportVision's optical tracking technology, and a graphic depicting the airflow is inserted into the video.
The Indianapolis race is ESPN’s first NASCAR Cup race since 2000, but ESPN and ABC will have live coverage of the final 17 races of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season, including all 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup on ABC. ESPN2 is also the regular home of the NASCAR Busch Series.